Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Go Yankees!

It looks like the trip to Chicago is a go. Yankees vs White Sox.

Mike and Jeremy will be sitting 3 rows back from the on-deck circle along first base. They will leave from here around 2...there's the time change in Illinois...and get back late late late.

Zach and I are planning to take Drew and Noah to our city pool, Kokomo Beach, for the annual Samaritan's Caregiver Fund Raiser, the Duck Derby. Quite a few yellow plastic ducks will race down the Lazy River for big prizes. Also, there will be pizza, coke, and inflatable games.

Sounds like a fun day, yes? We love fun here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

UPdate from today's appointment

I stopped by the local post office this afternoon where I connected with two blog readers. “How did the blood work go?” one asked.

As she may not be the only one who is praying for us and seeks information I'll jot a quick note here.

We met with oncologist this morning and she was very pleased with Mike’s health as displayed in his blood.

“No anemia.” “No nausea.” “No side effect problems.” “We will get the marker numbers later in the week and I will call you but…” and finally, "I knew you’d do well with the chemo and radiation.”

Both doctors agree that the stomach pain Mike is having is surgery related and is not cancer related. To the oncology radiation doctor, Mike has said, “If I knew I had a year, I’d buy FILL IN BLANK WITH TOY. Actually, he wouldn’t but he always likes to dream big dreams.

Dr: Go buy it!

To oncologist, Mike said, “If I knew I had some months of good health, I’d go to NAME SOME FAR OFF DESTINATION.

Dr: Get going!

Of course, in the middle of all of this enthusiasm, she also said that the cancer would eventually take Mike’s life...that’s how she put it today. But not today!

It’s easy to slip into the fantasy that Mike will just get well and we’ll be off playing, traveling, and enjoying life for a long, long time. The doctors don’t want to snuff out enthusiasm for life but their carefully chosen words keep the reality in sight.

One of our pastors asked Mike to teach a class this fall. Mike had said, “I don’t think I’ll be around.” Apparently, he will so he’ll need to get some lessons going.

I trust this is a good update for you all. Thank you for your prayers. The Blues come and go here. Today, the sky is gray and the blues are hanging around.

God is with us. And you. Please keep us in your prayers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wholly Cow!

Monday, 12:45 PM EST. We are at Louie's and Lynne is anticipating her first BAKE.

After much discussion/disagreement/direct evidence, I can report that a Louie's Bake IS a hamburger. It is baked in a shape that fits on a hot dog bun. It is served on a hot dog bun, covered with 'dog sauce' as well as onions and cheese.


Needs some mustard.



This will NOT be the last.

On a Wing and a Prayer

by Mike Bolinger

I do not consider myself to be a mystic and I certainly hope no one thinks of me as a religious quack, but sometimes weird things happen and I am puzzled by them. So it is now. For those who choose to read on, let me know what you think.

My late father was a naval aviator. I got my love of flying from him for which I shall be forever grateful. My dad flew every fighter the Navy had from 1943 until 1968. He flew radial engine biplanes into the Navy’s jet age. He was a guy who made his living landing high performance aircraft on the pitching and rolling deck of an aircraft carrier on dark and stormy nights. All the rest of us pilots land on the ground which doe not move much, unless you hit it too hard. Naval aviators are simply the best. They have to be.

My dad told me many times that the best airplane he flew was the F8F Bearcat. It was and still is the fastest single-engine fighter ever built. It was so powerful that when you took off, you needed to hold full right rudder and you never used full power, because the airplane would snap roll 360 degrees as soon as it left the ground because of the engines incredible torque. Obviously, you never got a second chance if you were careless.

I have always thought the most beautiful airplane ever built was the Spitfire VII. Its designer feverishly worked to finish the design because he knew England would soon be at war with Germany and he was terminally ill with cancer. He barely finished the design when war broke out between the two countries.

When the test pilot landed the prototype Spitfire, he climbed down and said “Don’t change a thing, it’s perfect.” From then on it was a legend. In it about 3 hundred 20-year-olds saved the entire free world in 1940 in the Battle of Britain. Too many people have forgotten about this. The young pilots were modern day Spartans, willing to hold the aerial pass with their lives.

Several years ago I bought a 1949 Mooney Mite. For those of you who do not know what that is (even most pilots do not know), it is a single seat, retractable gear airplane with a stick and a variable pitch prop. It also has a sliding canopy like a Spitfire. I loved that airplane with a passion exceeded only by my passion for my lovely wife. It was my own fighter plane. It was the closest I could get to a Spitfire. It taught me a lot about flying.

Recently, our pastor gave a message on Heaven. He said that most of us thought of Heaven as a place where Casper-the-Ghost-like spirits floated in space singing praises to the Lord. He was trying to be humorous, but you get the point. Frankly, that does not sound like fun to me. It sounded boring to him. It sounded boring to me, too.

In his message our pastor referred to a book entitled Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn says that the Bible repeatedly refers to Heaven as being an actual, physical place where we shall be able to continue to do many of the things we do here on Earth. He thinks the Garden of Eden still exists for the simple reason that God made Eden to be a perfect place and God does not make junk, nor would he have any reason to destroy something that is perfect. He suggests that those saints that like to garden or farm could spend their heavenly time working there. He also postulates that everything that has ever been invented originates with God and that God delights in seeing us invent something and perfect it. He even says that those of us who delight in tinkering with old cars might still be able to do so. I know this sounds a little odd, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Each of us would essentially have a piece of Heaven perfectly designed for each of us.

Reacting to the pastor’s message and Alcorn’s book, I sent my pastor an email in which I said that it was my hope that upon drawing my last breath, I would be transported to a grass airstrip, which would be wet with dew on a Saturday morning. A gentle breeze would be blowing straight down the runway. An old hanger with several folding chairs would be out front. My dad, who would be wearing his old Navy flying jacket, would walk out of the hanger and say “Me and the boys have been waiting for you. You’ve got the lead. Let’s fly home”. Someone would push my Mooney Mite out of the hanger and my dad would climb up into his Bearcat and away we would go.

Now I know that this is corny and sentimental. But bear with me.

Since I have been sick, I have read all of Charles Swindoll’s books on the great people of the Bible. One of the excellent points he made in all the books is that God always prepares the person he has chosen to carry out his task. His messengers are always given time to prepare, which gets me to the point.

So there I was at the lake last Saturday night sleeping soundly when I had one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had. I was sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire with my dad kneeling on the top of the starboard wing. In precise detail, he told me how to switch fuel tanks from the main to aft tanks. He showed me how the fuel gauge would read and how many gallons there were in each tank. It was so real I could smell my dad and the airplane and I remembered how he talked. It was wonderful.

All I can say is that if Heaven is perfect and beyond anything we can imagine, and if it is a place of unimaginable delights, populated by wonderful, healthy people, and if it is going to be tailored to each of us, the Lord is preparing me for my first true flight. To my delight it is going to be with me in a Spitfire with my dad in his Bearcat. Such fun we will have.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Great Hymn..

Long before I sought peace, when most trials were of my own making, I committed this to memory. Its words serve as a comfort now.

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Dragging me to church

I’ve read that for a marriage to succeed, it helps if both parties share a similar background. One thing that Mike and I share for sure: both sets of parents dragged us to church regularly.

In my case, that meant every Sunday, for Sunday School and church, and then back at 6 for youth group and on to 7 for the evening service. Then we were back on Wednesday for weekly Prayer Meeting. In addition, as my dad and mom both served on elected committees, our family’s social life often revolved around the church and its members.

I’m not sure but it seems that when I was growing up in the 50s, most people went to church. Certainly all of my friends did. My Catholic friends got to dress up like brides when they were 7 for a special service. Some of my friends went to churches that only had morning services so they got to see The Wizard of Oz and The Ten Commandments and the Beatles debut on television. But church and most biblical allusions were a common thread among my contemporaries.

Then, the 60s happened. Someone declared that God was Dead. Social unrest and spoiled children with too much time on their hands began to shun all manner of parental values and church attendance was the first to go. I did not get away with that until I left for college and then I did.

I attended a Christian liberal arts college where we were required to attend daily chapel. Chapel was a mixed bag…sometimes it was church-like; sometimes it involved a presentation from the Arts Department or ROTC (also required), and always some music major played the big pipe organ and another sang. I’m sure we paid attention; most of my friends learned to knit, also, during chapel. Many a student participated with a TIME magazine was spread across his lap. The music was spectacular and the messages were often interesting so it seemed logical to me, not widely lauded for my logic prowess, that I was getting plenty of church during the week and so chose to skip the weekend ritual.

Now, as a long-time Christian, I know that when I choose to stray from what I know is right, I putty up the guilt gaps with reasons that make sense at the time. As I was not alone in abandoning regular church attendance, I found reasons among my peers and in the media. “I can worship God alone.” “I’ve heard it all before.” “I’m saved so a salvation message is not for me.” “I’m not a drug addict or alcoholic so the addiction message is not for me.” “God loves me and forgives me.”

I could go on and by the time I’d be done, you’d want to smack me. I want to smack me. Oh, the arrogance and false wisdom of the young.

Yes, church attendance can become habitual but there are plenty of reasons the writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering together. Can you worship God alone? Well, sure. Take a walk in the woods on a misty morning and praise His name. But He wants us to join with others in corporal worship and also to meet needs and care for one another, as a family, as HIS family.

As for the “I’ve heard it all before.” We currently attend a church where it is common after the message for someone to say, “It was like THE SPEAKER was following me around last week.” It’s also common for someone to think, “The message was good but not really for me this week,” while another to hear God’s voice clear and strong within the same message.

But here’s the big thing about regular church attendance. God wants us to meet together. You never know when He will sit you by someone who needs you to be there. You never know when He’s going to speak through the message and give you an answer, or comfort, or admonition, or conviction that will help you, as His child.

Over my many years in a traditional and big Baptist church, I had committed many hymn lyrics to memory. I could blast out the alto without looking at the music. My best friend Margaret and I used to enjoy a special competition when we sang “Like a River Glorious.” If you ever sat in front of us, you were aware of this. As my sister Janis pointed out, "There’s a lot of good theology in those hymns."

Yes, there is. How many times in the last months has God brought a lyric or scripture or truth to mind to chase away fear and give comfort? More times than I can count. And how many times has He led a sister or brother to call, stop by, or in other ways meet our needs? Again, I have lost count.

And when the world does not make sense, when what logic you have is sent spinning into space, what can you cling to? To the eternal truths of the Father.

Thanks, Mom and Dad for dragging me to church. Thanks, all Christian friends and family who have prayed me to this place.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another request, team

Mike had blood work done on Friday and will meet with his doctor on Tuesday at 8:45 EST.

We know the results will be the results. We will need wisdom, insight, protection from fear, and whatever else you can think of.

Thanks. We'll keep you posted.

I stand corrected

Ok, remember that I am not native to Kokomo, although I have lived here for 36 years.

The hub informs me that a Louie's Bake is NOT a hamburger. It is a baked hot dog. If I'm going to chronicle our lives, I must strive for accuracy.

In fact, in the spirit of excellence, I will join the boys on Monday and partake. I will not even ask them to hold the onions...I will just resolve myself to exhaling upward for, oh, about 24 hours.

Week 2

Another 5 days crossed off and so far, so good. When he’s unplugged, Mike’s port is now just a little flesh-colored bump.

Mike continues to have ‘strange pain’ in his stomach area, “nothing I can’t live with.” Because this is so new and unknown, we don’t know and they don’t know. We DO know that the discomfort is relieved when he eats. Could it be hunger? Sounds like it but ‘feels’ different than that.

At any rate, when he met the dietitian at the oncology center, she quizzed him about weight loss and diet. He’s gained back all the weight he lost after surgery. For my always-thin hub, that means he’s tipping the scales at 166 lbs. When she asked him about his diet, he said, “Pizza, steak, ice cream, candy bars, milk shakes, Frosty’s and Louie’s.” More on Louie’s later. I also found Hot ‘n Spicy V8 so he’s getting some veggies.

This is close to a normal diet for him. Oh yes, and he loves sweet iced tea. That abomination has finally planted roots in the Midwest and he chugs it often. I believe the dietitian was taken aback. She DID say that apparently she had no current advice for him.

We’ve had a rainy, cold week and with it, moments of The Blues. Sometimes we find that cuddling helps. Between chins and foreheads, knees and toes, we just fit together really nicely. Of course, this brings sweet sorrow itself as the more we melt into each other, the more we know that the tearing apart will hurt. Sometimes, the best cure for The Blues is to get yourself in gear, up, dressed, and busy. Mike has had a few more finish-up legal things which has mean he dug out a suit, shirt and tie and went to court. Then, home and back into comfies: oversized shorts and T shirts and outside to his projects.

The Lotus: coming along. One afternoon, Mike, Jeremy, and Zach surrounded the body of the car and commenced some sort of group activity that took about an hour and left them all dirty dirty dirty and happy. I uncovered an ancient sliver of Lava soap to combat the grease. Zach asked me if it had come with the house….hahahaha. Funny kid. Actually, no, but I believe I purchased it shortly after the millennial change. There were animated planning-type discussions about the engine block and, um, something else. Not my thing.

The Desk: I really must get a photo to post. Mike started on my desk in early June. He found a photo in an Arts/Crafts furniture gallery book and decided to give it a go. It’s oak with mahogany inlays on the sides. When I thought he was about finished, he decided to add a top piece with 8 drawers. They will be concealed behind matching doors. It’s amazing, as is the artist.

Louie’s: as promised. Louie’s is a local establishment, a specialty restaurant, I guess you could call it. That speciality is The Bake, a kind-of hamburger baked in Coney Sauce and served with lots of onions and cheese, and then more onions. Also at Louie’s, you can get your basic Coney Dog. I have ordered a bowl of chili myself, and without onions, it has a sauce-like consistency that requires some crackers to give it bulk. When Mike’s office was in full swing, he forbade any staff from eating Louie’s as its bouquet filled the entire building for days. Those who eat at Louie’s often continue to enjoy their meal hours after they think they have finished.

Several Mondays, the call comes at 11:30 and whatever boys can be gathered meet at Louie’s along with brother Matt, friend Tom, and anyone else they care to bring along. I am not included, which is ok with me.

This week, a local church held their annual Bible School, for ages 3 – 8 from 6 until 7:30. It was perfect for Drew and Noah. They got home from camp, had time to decompress and eat dinner and then really had fun at Camp Bible. By the time we got home, there was just enough time for snack, bath and bedtime. I know that some people would consider Bible School for 3-yearolds as nothing more than babysitting but such experts have not talked to said 3 year old after the fact. Both Noah and Drew learned that God loves everybody and wants us to show His love by helping those who have less than we do. Every night, children brought canned goods for a local food pantry. Drew and Noah told me about this every night, that some children would be eating the beans, tuna, and soup that they brought to church.

Saturday is Jeremy’s birthday and he gets to celebrate out in the cornfields. It’s been a rainy week so it will be hot, sticky and buggy. Happy Birthday, Baby! Actually, we decided to celebrate on several evenings. Tuesday, we had a Transformers cake (Drew picked it out) and Thursday, it was Thomas the Tank Engine (Noah’s choice). No candles but LOTS of red, blue, and black icing.

This week has brought visitors to the workshop porch. Good friends brought smiles, wit, and fresh herbs from their garden. Several other men came to chat with the hub and stayed for a long time.

Mike is expecting other visitors to the lake Saturday. We have filled up all gas cans and both watercraft; however, it looks like rain so we may actually dig out that Trivial Pursuit game.
Monday, Mike is back to the center to continue radiation and to get plugged back into the pump.

A specific prayer request: Jeremy scored amazing tickets for Thursday’s game between the White Sox and the Yankees. We pray that Mike will continue to feel well and will be able to go. When Jeremy bought them, the plan was just to see a Yankee’s game as near as possible. No one could have imagined that both teams would be so tough and that this may be some sort of pivotal contest. At any rate, if it’s on television, the hub and the angel son-in-law will be visible when the camera catches the on-deck circle along the first base line.

As always, thank you, dear friends, for your concern and prayers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Odd man out this August

For the last 35 years, I have taught English at Kokomo High School in Kokomo, Indiana. In the last few seasons, I have spent my days primarily with juniors and seniors. For those of you who have been out of school for a while (not teachers...we never really leave school), these are young men and women who are 17 or older. I would tell you that on most days, I love my job.

No, really.

This may surprise those of you who have actual teenagers underfoot at home. More than a few friends have look at me askance when I tell them how I feel about those kids and our times together.

Let me just say that when teenagers are at their best, they are delightful people. Not a day goes by but that one of them teaches me something new. Not a week goes by but one says something cogent and witty and makes me laugh.

It’s that ‘being at their best’ that is a bit tricky. It takes some energy and experience to train a class to behave so they can focus and be wonderful. As a whole, they are happier when the class runs smoothly. That’s why veteran teachers will not miss those first few weeks of school when students and teachers are sizing each other up, making decisions, plotting and/or planning to behave as the teacher expects.

Every class has a personality and it takes several weeks for it to emerge. However, you get a feel on that first day when you read the roll. You come to a name and, especially if its owner is not present, (because WHY come on the first day when making an entrance is less noticed?) the class with giggle, moan, wiggle in seats, some sort of group response. They know this kid and they know his/her presence in class will test the teacher. They can recount the teachers who went crazy and/or retired when they had this kid in class. He’s a legend.

They really can’t wait for him/her to show up and for the games to begin. Whether they know the teacher/like the teacher/don’t like the teacher, students would rather be entertained than learn a lot of content. They anticipate that this kid will be the teacher’s Waterloo, or they would if they understood ALLUSION.

I believe that’s a state standard.

It takes about 3 weeks for each class to run the same play: What does THIS teacher do when THAT happens? What does THIS teacher expect? How does THIS teacher handle ‘late to class,’ ‘go to restroom,’ go to locker,’ ‘forgot my book,’ ‘whoops, I meant to turn it off,’ and…and this makes the job so exciting…etc., an ever changing classroom event to which the teacher must respond.

My personal sanity saver is that I never argue with my students. Never. I also rarely explain myself when it comes to classroom rules. Why? Because as we all know, anyone who asks “Why?” is not so much a seeker of wisdom but a fighter who wants to discount whatever you say in response to “Why?”


Parent to teenager: Go and clean up your room.
Teenager to parent: Why?
Parent to teenager….no wait a minute. What will parent say to get this response?
Teenager: Oh. I see. Of course. I’ll go clean up my room.


Whatever the parent would say, the teenager would say (or think at least) Well, that’s just stupid.

The way to avoid conflict is refuse to engage.

Now, I can tell you that for some students, this enrages them. Arguing with the teacher is their best thing. They have skills. And while they argue, nobody is teaching the lesson; no student is learning the lesson. And, for good students who really want to get to the lesson, the back and forth between teacher and arguer makes THEM mad. They don’t like having their time wasted.

So, yes, when a student looks at me and asks, “Why?” I just look back and say, “Cuz.” It takes a few seconds to sink in and then we move on.

My only trouble with this comes when a child has been encouraged to speak his mind. Whatever is on his mind. Whenever HE deems it appropriate. Those kiddies are a bit trickier. It sometimes takes a walk down the hall to the bad kid room for them to see the light.

The existence of the 'bad kid room' is one reason I can do my job. Also, there are layers of support persons who step in when the kiddies are not wonderful.

It’s also important for students to think that teachers are on to their tricks. If they think that, they will save their tricks for some other teacher or a substitute. Then the teacher’s job gets easier and she can get to teaching.

For example, three alleged scholars slide in late. One has a pass that looks suspicious. Note on attendance sheet to check after class. One has a pass that looks legit. One has no pass but is dripping wet from swimming and the teacher decides to let it slide.

Except, somewhere in the back, “That’s not fair. I was late from swimming and I got a tardy.” That fairness thing is a dagger.

So now: The Lesson.

First there’s the warm up – the idea is that students enter and get busy with something that, hopefully has something to do with the day’s lesson. It’s that initial 5 minutes when the “tone is set” and the teacher can take attendance and manage basic bookkeeping.

Except there are the passes…passes that have arrived before class for students and passes that will arrive in a steady stream on some days. White one, signed and timed for right now. White one timed for 15 minutes from now. Another white one for 45 minutes from now. Green one marked ‘AT ONCE.” Except Person A always marks AT ONCE but doesn’t mean it. Person B marks AT ONCE and does mean it; someone is waiting and the clock is ticking. Person C never marks AT ONCE but always means AT ONCE.

Warm up is done; we discuss it or go over the correct answers. Time for the presentation. Hand outs/PowerPoint/notes-on-overhead/etc. Students settle, mostly, and the show begins. Girl with white pass returns. Without the pass.

“I lost it.”

Multiple Choice: This means A) she lost it or B) she never went where she was supposed to go or C) she left that room quite a while ago as the timed pass would show and has been cruising the halls. Note on attendance sheet by her name “CK pass.” We’ll deal with that during prep. period.
Except…“What? Don’t you believe me?”

Oh, do we have to do this? “I’m just going to check after class.”

Now she’ll pout if she’s innocent and grumble if she’s guilty. But both responses will be loud enough to distract the other students. So on with the show.

Today, I believe, is my edge-of-your-seat presentation on the difference between the Puritans and the Separatists. Somewhere, someone makes a joke that his audience finds funny. I know I find the early church fathers a laugh riot myself. No matter. On with the show.

But then the phone rings, something erupts in the hall, a fire drill happens, someone says, “Ouch, stop it.” Or “Hey he took my book.” Or “Something stinks in here.” Or “But I really DID lose my pass.”

Please be kind to teachers. They have to juggle many balls.

By the end of the term, most students and teachers enjoy each other and will miss this class next semester. Just the other day, at our county fair, two young men came up to me, gave me big hugs and said, “We love you, Mrs. Bolinger.” What’s not to love about such a job?

However, it takes much energy…physical, social, psychological, juggle those balls and let nothing drop to the floor. Right now, in the midst of new challenges, this teacher has targeted her energies to a different direction and will need some time to recoup.

But for you teachers out there, best wishes for a good semester. Anyone want a desk blotter? I’ll tell you where to find one.

School Shopping

Once the Fourth-of-July sales are over, every shop clears a path for Back-to-School. It used to be that you had a limited choice of stores for school supplies but not anymore. I swear, I walked past a liquor store yesterday and saw a crayon display.

I dropped by our local office supply shop the other day. This store is my choice for back-to-school shopping each summer because it’s where I can purchase MY favorite tool---the desk-blotter month-by-month calendar that begins with August. Most of these blotters begin with January...I’ve heard tell that the year begins in January for some people. Not teachers.

As a veteran, I find that this item is the single most important tool for me. It keeps me organized, on track, and on top of all the little school dramas that I must respond to. It is where I record my lesson plans and every other important detail of the day/week/month for my classes.

Sometimes, a student will request make-up work, work-ahead work, something, and I’ll note it in the margin: Sarah G. 3rd 212. Or a parent will ask me to call and I’ll jot a reminder: 4595555 Sarah G. mom.

Other common notations: Fire Drill; Convo 1st; Couselor to SRP; Hair 2:45; get prizes. NO SCHOOL. Once in a while, my little notations are coded/short-handed to the point that I can’t remember what they are which, of course, is counter-productive, but usually I can get multiple jobs done using this desk top, hands-on tool.

The month begins all clean and neat. By the end of the month, the calendar is filled with any number of things, including the occasional coffee cup ring. I have developed a ritual where I tear off the old month and then gaze and reflect at the next one, all clean and neat, before I begin to scribble anew all over it.

I know from talking to friends that back to school shopping is a common instance of parent/child negotiation. Some parents take a hard line on frills, like movie tie-in binders or screen printed pencils. These are saved for rewards or special occasions. I had a friend who made his children earn those Neatbooks, the loose leaf binders where you can tear off the paper instead of ripping it through the metal rings.

I leave such decisions to individual parents but that was not my method during the 15 years when my own kids were in school. As a teacher, I gave them a lot of leeway to select what they wanted as I view good tools essential to quality work. “You want the Ninja Turtle Pens? Fine. You want those wireless (it meant something different) loose-leaf notebooks? (which cost 3 times what a stack of school paper would run) Absolutely.”

I also let them choose their favorite assortment of Crayolas. One always wanted the biggest with the sharpener in the back, even though that sharpener would get gunked up much sooner than we ran out of crayons. Neither ever wanted MY favorite assortment, the 48 colors in the balcony package. (I’m not sure, but I believe my own mother held the line on such a frill, as I don’t remember ever getting these and I still get a bit of a rush whenever I see that box in the display. Weren’t 8 colors enough? No, not really...I always NEEDED Burnt Sienna)

Anyway, I was in the supply store to get a few office things as the staff is winding down, cleaning up, closing files, and etc. After gathering the items on my list, I strolled past the desk-blotter-calendars with January 2010 on the first page and walked to a farther back place to see if my favorite was there. It was. There are some things right with the world, after all.

I didn’t buy one because this fall, I will continue my leave-of-absence from a job that I love.

Really, I do. But my focus right now is elsewhere and I’m not thinking to 2010. We’re learning to live day to day in our world.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Morning - Week One Done

Have you ever had it happen? You cut yourself or crash you shin into something or bang your head or touch the hot stove for the second time....I live in a fantasy world where everybody is as clumsy as I am.
Anyway, and especially if you've lived an injury-deprived life, it's common for the pain receptors to freeze for several seconds. You look at the injury and you have time to think, "This is really going to hurt." And you're right but the pain does not register right away.
It may be a survival have time to grab the band aide, tourniquet, girl friend, before you lose it completely.
This week has reminded me of that delayed reaction. We have not sat around waiting, but we had figured that some side effects would occur this week. So far, we have nothing to report.
Mike and Zach took the mountain bikes out (for the uninitiated, we have no mountains; we are the Midwest) and enjoyed the sun and exercise. Mike has taken to walking around with his shirt off, showing off his new medical accessory. The port, added to that large abdominal scar, gives him a Frankenstein vibe, although a really cute one.
He gets a weekend reprieve and then back for week 2. We will be leaving for the lake shortly. It appears we will have a cool snap, never a problem for me. It means sleeping with the windows open and few heavy blankets snugging us in.
The other evening, I was working in the basement and there came much thumping from up above. I thought, perhaps, the grandbabies were afoot. But no. It was the hub and the son, again making music; this time it was foot thumping music. Many smiles. Much music.
We continue to thank God for all of you who are praying for us. Our God is powerful, merciful, and oh so good.

Monday, July 13, 2009


We are now home from our long day at the hospital.

Last night, I tossed and slept little. Then, I began to meditate on God's promises about being with us, be not afraid, I have overcome the world...others but it was late...and I drifted off to sleep.

This morning, as soon as I woke, I realized that my fear was gone. In its place was a numb feeling but NUMB is way better than FEAR. Does God have one about NUMB?

All went as planned. They have fitted the hub so the radiation hits a very specific area. To do that, they painted a PLUS on both sides at his waist and then a third one about the center of his belly. The radiation takes only a few minutes.

Next, he went into surgery so they could install a PORT. This is a gizmo that opens to the outside and then runs right into a major vein. When he woke up, they wheeled him back to Oncology where his angel nurse introduced us to the PUMP. It is housed in a 'stylish black bag' (manufacturer's' words...who said English teachers can't find work!?) which can be worn around the waist, set on a table, slipped into a briefcase, or "use your imagination!"

It will pump away, 24 hours a day, pumping POISON into my hub. You may know this..if not, you may benefit from the crash course I have been taking. Chemotherapy kills cells. It is poison. One is not to just splash it around carelessly. Its target is 'fast growing cells' of which cancer cells are prime target. Other fast growers are skin, hair, and the mucous membranes from the inside of your mouth all the way through your gut.

There I go, getting all technical.

So. 1) Thanks for your prayers. God is with us.
2) We begin the regime for 6 weeks.
3) The hub will be sporting a 'stylish black bag' which he will probably hide in a briefcase.

We value your friendship and prayers. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Anglo Jesus

Savior, like a Shepherd, lead us...

Let me get all King James on you:
Psalm 23
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

I know. We have lots of translations/versions of Holy Scripture. I also know that King James wasn’t as much a rip-roaring Christian as he was a politician who wanted to get the Puritans off his back; that’s why he financed what became the common translation for 300 years.

For me, poetic passages read and resonate best in what some would call the flowery language of the Golden Age of Britain. I have heard this particular passage quoted by my grandfather and my grandmother on ancient reel-to-reel tapes (Google it). It is a common section of scripture to memorize and read, especially at funerals. It is a psalm that reminds us of God’s comfort and care. There are the pastoral images of a shepherd (rod and staff); physical care (food and water); and the eternal destination for God’s child.

And, one of the Bible’s numerous references to FEAR. Holy Scripture is full of commands and directions to help us through life. The most common, you may know, is NOT “love thy neighbor” or “love God” or “give to the poor.” It is “Fear Not.”

Why would God, through inspired writers, tell us, so often, that we are not to fear? Might it be that, when it’s all said and done, FEAR is our greatest weakness?

Occasionally a friend will confess, “I’m afraid of…” and it’s been really easy for me to say, “Fear is not of God. If you recognize the emotion of fear, it’s coming from the other camp.”

But when fear grips me, then I need to cling to my Shepherd.

A friend recently said to me, “You know, this is where you are right now. The valley of the shadow of death.” She went on to remind me that we all travel through this valley.

And we are to fear no evil because the Shepherd is there with His rod and staff, both tools to keep the sheep on the safe path and away from those cliffs, ledges and ravines. His presence is our security.

We know this is true. We have experienced the Shepherd’s care before. This is not the first trip through this valley for Mike and me.

In August 1978, we lost our first child, a full term beautiful little boy named Nathan. He died just before his birth. Back then, it was not routine to monitor pregnant ladies so the fact that he was in distress was missed. Doctors determined that he had suffered from anoxia, a lack of oxygen.

Although there was a twilight zone quality to the recovery room… “What funeral home shall we call?” “Do you want an autopsy?” …God was there with us. I had visited a friend whose son had also been oxygen-deprived but he had survived. Physically strong, he has the body of a man and the mind of an infant. They care for him at home and, I know, they love him as much as they can. I also know that God gives us grace to handle the handle the trials in our lives.

This boy’s face filled my mind as I rested in recovery.

I’m confident that if our son had survived, God would have helped us live that life. But as there are choices in reproduction, I’m guessing there would not have been an Allyson or Zachary. And as dark as those times were for us, God has blessed us with two really terrific children.

Both of our fathers have passed away and although we grieved, it was nothing like the pain of burying your child. And that pain never goes away; it lessens, it becomes a scar that you live with, but it takes little remembrance to bring the tears.

I recall a drawing that hung on many Sunday School classrooms when I was small. It depicted Anglo Jesus as The Good Shepherd. He has picked up a lamb and is walking with it curled around his neck.

So now we are walking through that valley again. Our Shepherd is near and we will stay close. I wonder. Can He carry two lambs? These two lambs are weary.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clinging to our Father; calling on our friends.

On Monday, July 13, Mike will begin treatment. At best, this is palliative, to relieve symptoms and as we understand it, there’s a chance to buy some more time.

His doctors at Howard Community Hospital want to begin right away. He will have his first radiology treatment at about 10:30. Then he’ll walk over to the outpatient surgery center and at 1:30, they will insert a port. When he wakes up, they will wheel him over to oncology where he will receive his first chemo treatment.

So pick any/all of this. We expect Monday to be hard.

After that, Mike is to come back every day, 5 days a week for continuation of radiation/chemo. The actual treatment time is short but it’s every day for 6 weeks. We don’t know, haven’t asked, when/if they will determine how it’s working. They have prepared us that Mike will experience fatigue some days, perhaps necessitating going to bed to rest. They have given him a prescription for nausea and say that few patients with this treatment get sick.

Mike will have to curtail some activities that he enjoys. He certainly hopes to be up and out in his work shop.

Should anyone want to drop by, please feel free to do so, especially if the garage door is up and/or the work shop light is on.

We know that you are following us and praying for us. God answers your prayers in all sorts of startling ways. For Monday, we ask for you to bring our names before God’s throne as we walk a new corridor.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh no you Di'int!

Yes, we did.

I think we needed to play catch up -- we slept in today until

(wait for it)

9:00 AM.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

'Nother trip to Victory Field

Monday was the kind of day that we Hoosiers remember when the temp climbs into the high nineties and the humidity is OVER 100%. Why do we live HERE?

Last night, a balmy 80 degrees. DST means that even at 9 PM, we still have light. We drove down to watch the Indianapolis Indians face (not battle) the Louisville Bats. 10 - 1 loss. Sad. One pitcher walked 5 (FIVE) batters in a row, and the crowd was not kind, before he was taken out

The park is clean and beautiful. The seats are magnificent. AND, it was dollar night so the hot dogs were cheap.

Baseball up close.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Change in Plans

Sometimes around here, we’re all too sensitive to each other’s wishes. Life is short. We need to level with each other.

We planned this big trip. Mike had said he wanted to return to Deal’s Gap. I’m the ‘to do’ person so I got the details all sorted out..reservations, routes, weather forecasts.
We measured to see if the motorcycle could fit in the truck. Yes. We picked up several books-on-tape to pass the time. We laid out our ‘gear.’ I actually HAVE some gear.
All the while, Mike was feeling, I don’t know, uneasy about driving 9 – 10 hours, several days, long hauls in our nice but bumpy truck. But he figured that I really really wanted to do this so he said nothing.
In fairness to his perspective, there have been other adventures I’ve brainstormed in the last few months. Go go go do do do. Most were really un-doable. THIS trip seemed like we could manage so the hub didn’t want to disappoint his frau.
He began dropping hints. “I don’t feel too good.” “I’m not sure we should go.” “Is it going to rain?” I didn’t push it.
We talked some more as we began to pack.

ME: Do you want to go?
HE: Sure. We’ll go.
ME: Do you want to go?
HE: I don’t know about the long trip.
ME: (time for straight talk) Look. This is 99.9% for you.
HE: But you want to ride the motorcycle.
ME: HOW long have we been married? I’ve never cared about the motorcycle.
HE: Oh. Yeah.

Pause. Ceiling fan whirling. Nice breeze.

HE: You know what I’d like to do?
ME: What?
HE: I’d like to drive up to the lake and stay all week.
ME: Great idea.

So that’s where you’ll find us, north rather than south of Kokomo.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Test Prep

You might say that nothing prepares you for a bump in the road of life, be it a detour, a pothole, a chasm. Yet, if you’re one of God’s children, EVERYTHING prepares you for these events.
Clinging to our faith in the Master Planner, we know that circumstances, whether we see them as major or minor, have been placed in our lives to prepare for this time. Friends dear or casual, and others with whom we have had relationships, are all part of the building and honing of whatever strength, wisdom, and insight we might possess.
“Oh, THAT’S why that happened. THAT is what God was doing,” may be what we say, should we need to say it, when God’s plan is revealed, perhaps on the shores of the crystal sea.
In the 3 months since Mike’s diagnosis, God has shown me a few flickers of His preparation work.
Here’s one.
By the end of 2007, I was handling all the bill paying, excluding the office account. At that time, we had separate checkbooks for 4 different areas. Never one to set my standards too high as to wound my-self image, I was doing an adequate though sloppy job. Never overdrawn but never, down-to-the-penny sure of balances. I know, I know. If saints in heaven ARE aware of happenings on earth, I’m guessing God is keeping this fact away from my dad as it would tarnish his joy, just a tad. I know that, right now, several of his offspring are cringing and shaking their heads. They got those genes.
No matter. It took one of my buddies to shame me into doing better. I resolved that for 2008, in every checkbook, I would record every check number, every date, every payee, and I would keep a running balance. I would also record every deposit, even the automatic ones.
Your question might be, “What were you doing?” Well, not this. I had my ‘own system,’ which admittedly had some flaws in it.
I had never kept a New Year’s resolution either, never even tried to, but decided to give this a go. As per old dogs and new tricks, I knew that change would be challenging but resolved to try.
3 months in, I began to discover what all those anal, compulsive people see in keeping good records. As I experienced benefits, I made mental notes to reinforce the effort. 6 months in, it was almost a habit.
As December came to a close, not only was I keeping good checkbooks, I had kept a resolution for the whole year. As my former sloppy self could think of no one else, I boasted to my minister. Proud of little me. Look what I did. So into 2009 I trod, having eliminated two checkbook accounts, confident on my balances.
So what?
During the month of April, when the stress of our situation was swirling, I began experiencing what I call Swiss Cheese Brain. It was (and sometime still is) as though there are holes in my head. “Do you want this or that?” I can’t choose. Just tell me.
At the hospital, I lost my purse twice, just walked off and left it. At one point, I could not find my car keys so I systematically checked each place they might be. I finally emptied out the contents of my purse, spread everything across a bed and examined it…no keys. Put everything back in my purse, looked again and the keys were now in the purse. It was distressing to realize that I had looked at those keys and not seen them.
On discharge day, Mike sent me out to the car with some bags. Then, I came back in to get some more. When I returned to the car, I saw that I had left all four doors and the hatch open. I had no recollection of even being at the car (bags in car were evidence) and I burst into tears. Something about the last straw.
Driving was also a challenge. I had to fight NOT to let my brain race around to anything other than “Keep the car between the lines and away from that tail lights ahead of you.” (Be advised when driving around cancer hospitals)
And even though I was/am surrounded by trusted people to help me, one afternoon something major came up, a creditor who claimed he had not be paid; I sat down, literally shaking as I recalled the lost purse/car keys/car doors. I took out the blue checkbook and flipped it open. Staring at me were page after page after page of readable records…dates, check numbers, payees. And there it was, check #1248 to this creditor. It had cleared…I knew the date. A quick trip on line, hit PRINT, and there was my proof.
No shaking. No stress. Holes in head but hard records in hand.
Huh. So maybe that New Year’s Resolution WASN’T my idea, after all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Great Seats

At Victory Field,
in Indianapolis,
they're ALL great seats.

Baseball Therapy

6/30/2009. Cold snap. It was a sweatshirt night if you were outside. And they were outside.

Mike, Zach, and Jeremy drove to Indianapolis, sat along the 3rd base line at Victory Field, ate very high priced (must have been imported) hot dogs, and cheered on the Indianapolis Indians.

Where we're headed

Last night, the Howard County Bar Association honored Mike with a retirement party. According to the hub, this hasn’t happened in all the years he’s practiced. Quite a few attorneys have died at their desks (I’m not kidding) or became so ill that, as they quit, they were unable to celebrate. So another blessing for Mike.
Friends, colleagues, some clients, and family gathered at the local country club. Festive and fun.
After several people had a chance to tell their Mike Story, the guest of honor rose for a few remarks. He spoke from his heart. He said his piece. He told a few tales himself. He thanked everyone. He reflected on a few questions he wants to ask God as soon as they meet. “But I know that this is the plan and I know that when I get the answer, it will make perfect sense.”
We are, literally, headed to the lake for the July 4th Weekend. Winona Lake does Independence Day up right with small town flavor but bigger town financial support. (Several manufacturers of artificial hips/knees call Warsaw (next door) their home.
There will be the Annual Firecracker 5 K, party food: home made ice cream, snow cones, cotton candy, corn dogs; parades, contests, inflatable playground-things, concerts, and the big, big deal – one of the best fireworks displays in the state. We will either motor out into the lake or sit on our pier about 10 PM Saturday night and watch the sky explode while a live orchestra provides music on a nearby hill.
On Monday, Mike and I are taking off to Deal’s Gap in Tennessee. This is the site of the semi annual Wheaton College Alumni Limited motor cycle excursion. Mike and friend Dale have made this trek numerous times, to try their hands at not killing themselves on what bikers call The Tail of the Dragon.
As I am the co-pilot this time, the trip will be a little more tame. We are trailering the bike, staying in a nice motel with running water, and if it’s raining, we will skip the ride and go shopping. (I haven’t told him that….)
If he wants adventure (and another broken rib or deflated lung), he’ll have to go again with Dale.
And then, and here’s where you can continue to pray, on July 13, Mike will have surgery; the doctor will insert a port, the final preparation for treatment. Once in place, we are ready to give it a go.
As always, I am committed to making this the place where you can get the most accurate information about us. Thank you for soldiering with us.